Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Robert Troy TD, has said the directive issued to Coast Guard members, no longer permitting them to use emergency lights and sirens on vehicles while driving, further demonstrates the need for the Coast Guard to be put on a statutory basis.

Deputy Troy explained, “As we are all aware, the Irish Coast Guard is one of Ireland’s most important and respected organisations. Day in and day out, its members place their lives on the line to steward coastal communities and all those on the seas to safety.

“The Irish Coast Guard is one of Ireland’s four principal emergency services, the other three being the Fire Service, the National Ambulance Service and An Garda Síochána. Yet it is the only blue light service not covered by Statutory Instrument legislation which ensures standalone status.

“Putting the coastguard on a legislative footing would ensure they receive more representation, more recognition, and ultimately the same protections afforded to the other blue light services.

“In June of last year I brought the Irish Coast Guard Authority Bill 2018 before the Dáil. The Bill will create a statutory Irish Coast Guard Authority and in doing so acknowledge the stellar work it already does and will ensure it will continue to be able to do it.

“The directive issued to Coastguard members has caused a lot of concern. Members are fearful of the potential delays this will cause when they are travelling to incidents. I think it’s worth remembering that the Irish Coast Guard handles approximately 2,500 marine emergencies a year, assists 4,500 people and saves over 200 lives. It evacuates medical patients from the islands on hundreds of occasions.

“To denigrate this service in any way flies in the face of the valuable role the Coast Guard provides. A two-tier emergency response service is in nobody’s interest. In the first instance, a plan needs to be put in place immediately for the roll out of emergency driver training for Coast Guard Volunteers, to restore their full use of emergency lights and sirens. The Minister also needs to look at the Coast Guard in a more medium to long term and put them on a legislative footing”, concluded Deputy Troy.